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Happy 70th anniversary

On this day 70 years ago, an Australian official who would later rise to become Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, John Keith Waller, opened the Australian Consulate General office in the Manila Hotel, formally establishing bilateral relations between Australia and the Philippines.

This was only days before the inauguration speech of Manuel Roxas as President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, and only weeks before the foundation of the Republic of the Philippines on 4 July 1946.

Like many other countries at the time, the Philippines faced the daunting task of post-war reconstruction, but as a new country, the Philippines had another large task of finding its place in the world. Australia has been side by side with the Philippines on this journey.

In a radio broadcast to Australia, on the eve of his 4 July inauguration, President Roxas said that geographically Australia was one of the Philippines’ most important neighbours and one which the people of the Philippines especially wished to cultivate.

He said, “Our interest in the land down under is not confined to sentiment. Australia is a sister democracy of the western pattern. We are in the same ideological camp. Australia is a natural ally of the Philippines.”

Seventy years on, the vision of President Roxas has become the reality.

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Our shared democratic values are as important today in our 70th anniversary year as they were 70 years ago. Australia congratulates the people of the Philippines for the conduct of successful, free and open elections. The embassy deployed teams across the country observing polling booths and we were impressed with the orderly process and commitment of the Filipino people to exercise their voting rights. This vibrant democracy is something we cherish and Australians too will have their chance to have their say through the ballot box on 2 July when we have a Federal election.

Today on our 70th anniversary we celebrate the rich diversity of our relationship. This has strong historical foundations but we are also looking to the future. In November 2015 President Aquino and Prime Minister Turnbull signed the Joint Declaration of the Australia-Philippines Comprehensive Partnership.

The Comprehensive Partnership is recognition of the strategic importance of the relationship between Australia and the Philippines which is grounded in shared values of democracy, economic freedom, respect for human rights, and adherence to the rule of law.

We look forward to working with the incoming Administration of presumptive President-elect Duterte to implement the Comprehensive Partnership so as to further enhance our collaboration.

As I have travelled around the country touring our 70th anniversary photographic exhibition it is the links between our people that have stood out. These abiding personal relationships are the beating heart to the sinews and bones of the formal government to government agreements. Filipinos are now the 6th largest migrant group in Australia and many Australians have made their homes in the Philippines.

The people of both countries have indeed cultivated our friendship as foreshadowed by our forefathers some 70 years ago.

Symbolically this week, the Australian Navy frigate HMAS ANZAC made a port visit to Manila. We celebrated our close defence ties on the ship’s deck just a short distance from the Manila Hotel, the birth site of our modern relationship. As the brilliant orange sun descended the heavens opened with drenching rain for the first time since my arrival in Manila. A fitting baptism indeed for the next 70 years of friendship!

(Amanda Gorely is the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines. Follow her on Twitter @AusAmbPH and send your #First70Years message of friendship.)

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